It is 9 p.m. on Saturday night. Local streets are packed as many head downtown to Music City’s liveliest dance clubs and music venues. At the same time, another large group of young adults in south Nashville also spends the evening singing, dancing and clapping, but theirs is done in worship.
This is the Awakening, a movement whose goal is to change the world with what changes us, which its members say is the touch of God. Meetings are at the Wallace Chapel at Christ Church in south Nashville every other weekend. The ministry also holds services throughout Middle Tennessee and travels to other areas across the country.
“We want people in our generation to unite. One voice lifting up the name of the Lord,” said Lauren Gardner, the producer and head of the movement.
Carlos Mariscal, the movement’s visionary, was in the last months of ministerial school when he started having several dreams every night for two months that led him to start the Awakening.
In the dreams, he said God showed him images of healing, miracles, worship and the way to start a movement to change the lives of people around him.
That movement takes many forms, and that can be seen at the Awakening services, which are different every time they meet.
Unplugged acoustic nights are usually meetings where people sit in circles, surrounding the musicians, to listen and sing songs revealed to the team in their prayers.
On the live concert nights, a full band plays powerful songs that many people dance to.
In both experiences, the set list is put together to prepare and help the people for Mariscal’s message through God’s words. He said these messages are usually sent to him through dreams, prayers and talks, and that’s what the movement is based on.
The nights go on with a time of prayer, allowing people to share their problems and struggles with a prayer team.
“We want to encourage people to come forward and shake this stuff off, get prayer, cause there’s so much power in prayer,” Gardner said.
As a distinctly Nashville movement, music is a key part of the process of worship during the meetings.
The musicians involved take their work seriously to help people encounter God while dancing barefoot, lying on the floor or taking time to sit down and pray.
“Everyone has found their own passion in this,” Mariscal said. “We are not Christians that love music, we are Christians that are music.”
One of the team musicians, Judah Akers, is a junior music business major at Belmont and plays baseball for the Bruins.
“Carlos came to me one time after leading worship at a school ministry and approached me, saying that he was called to start a worship movement that he wanted me to help lead,” Akers said.
At first, Akers thought everything was a little crazy, since he had never met Mariscal before. But he decided to give it a try.
“His heart and vision went along with what the Lord had done in my life, and so I was excited to learn more,” he said.
Since it started in 2010, the Awakening has brought hundreds of people together from Belmont, MTSU, Tennessee Tech, Lipscomb and other schools around Nashville.
“We started two Septembers ago which is kind of crazy to me, but the Lord has had his hand on it the whole way,” Akers said. “It has been amazing.”
Their real goal is a worldwide movement that could reach people in need in broader ways, reviving churches and shaking people with God’s presence.
A ministry school is also in the plans, as are houses – buildings where they can empower their worship leaders to create teams to do “awakenings” and change lives.
Mariscal said he is aware this kind of movement is happening all over the world, but he points out that the Awakening has brought a unique mix of denominations.
“Some come from Presbyterian backgrounds, or Church of Christ backgrounds, and some come from Pentecostal backgrounds,” he said.
Being young and diverse make it easier to reach this new generation of young people coming from several different experiences and places in their own faith, Mariscal said. “Our hearts are the same, but they’ve gone through different adventures.”